Saturday, October 23, 2010

Ephesus, Turkey

After a quiet night in Pamukkale and the exact same breakfast I had every other day in Turkey, it was time to catch a bus to Selcuk. I was heading for Selcuk and was told my bike would not be a problem. My first bus ride had been brilliant and the bike did not even cost extra. I was really looking forward to my second bus ride. I thought I was going to need to bike to a major town and then catch a bus. They said there was no need. When the minibus came, it was full. The bike was a problem. They tried to not let me on. I got insistent and we fit the bike inside the bus with the passengers. The attendant wasn't happy, but oh well. I was off to explore the ruins of Ephesus. I was told they were the best in Turkey. Can't miss.

Ephesus ruins.

When I rolled into town, I was starving. I found the first restaurant that looked good. It was called St. John's. It was a coffeehouse run by a Swiss couple. I suspect it looked so good because of its Western influence and I was looking for a taste of home. I polished off some Turkish hummus and something a little more Western, but I can't remember what to save my life right now. Ahh, I just remembered. It was a risotto with an egg on top, a Swiss recipe. The first time I had risotto was in Switzerland with Jay. Good memories.

Fountain of Trojan, I think.

After lunch, it was time to explore. I biked the 2km over to Ephesus. It is a linear site with two entrances. I randomly chose one and biked to it. I didn't want to leave my bike and gear in the main parking lot so I biked right up to the ticket booth to leave it there. On the way, two store owners told me that parking was back the other way. I told them there was no parking for bikes and kept on trucking. The ticket agent said it was no problem if I left by bike by him. Curiously, one store owner kept at it and came over and talked to the ticket agent who, more or less, told him to bugger off. I don't see how it affected him at all. Maybe he thought I was going to mow down his shoppers. I don't know.

Temple of Hadrian

I do know it was hot out and there isn't much shade at the ruins. Most of the ruins I have been to don't have much shade. The only exception I can think of is Olympos. Did the Romans cut down all the trees? Did we destroy the trees when we dug up the ruins? I have to think that the Romans appreciated the aesthetic value of trees as much as we do today.

Marble Street on the way to the theater.

Ephesus had its heyday around 50BC when 250,000 people lived there. All that we can see now is really a single curving main street with a side street to the theater. Where did everyone else live? I guess their homes were built out of matter more likely to decompose. It makes me wonder what would last of our current cities. Anyway, what was left of the Ephesus was sometimes put back together. Sometimes it was just a pile of cataloged rock. I am not sure if it was the heat, but I just wasn't in love with these ruins. Maybe I was get Roman ruined out. Ruined on ruins?

Library of Celsus and the Gate of Mazeus & Mithridates

I love that they left statues in place. The ones missing noses always amuse me.

There were two parts of Ephesus that did amaze me. The first one was the Library of Celsus. It was very cool to see such a complete building in one place. Also, they had some of the statues in place. Normally, all of the statues have been moved to a museum so you can only imagine what was there or go visit them and imagine back to the original site. It takes away a little something for me.

The puzzlers.

The assembler.

The other amazing part of Ephesus was the Terraced or Sloped houses. They cost extra, but were recommended to me by Judy and Herb. I am not sure why, but they were great. It might have been the fact they were in an enclosed shady building that wasn't hot. It might have been just seeing buildings where people actually lived instead of huge temples and civil structures. It might have been watching the men struggle through reassembling the worlds largest puzzle. They have workers trying to reassemble the walls and mosaics of all of these houses. They just have table after table of parts. A few guys search and another guy glues. I can't imagine the devotion it takes to stick at it. I wonder if the people they hired are archaeologists or puzzlers. I think the task might be better suited to a puzzler.

The bigger puzzle pieces.

The resulting product.

One of the Terraced houses.

After soaking up as much of the library and Terraced House shade as I could, it was time to scoot. I had ideas about heading down to Didyma (which makes me think of New Zealand's alien water species didymo). It was the location of the Temple of Artemis that was supposed to give you a double wow, instead of just a single wow of other amazing sights. Unfortunately, my map was wrong on the distance again (I never did get around to replacing that crappy map). There also were no tours running there and I was told there was no public transit near to the site, which surprised me. I had figured I could bike half and take the bus for half. I found out later, that wasn't true. Oh well. Another item for the next time list.

I love the honest of this advertising.

Skipping Didyma wasn't terrible. It almost put me back on schedule. I headed to the bus station to figure out how to get up to see the ancient site of Troy. While at the bus station, a Japanese girl approached me to ask if I had been the one on the bike she had seen earlier. I was. Small world. Anyway, while there I learned about an overnight nonstop bus to Istanbul with dinner service and transport into the tourist area. All the books I had read and the people I had talked to said that the Troy site was lacking. It was historically important, but there wasn't really anything left even though the rebuilt Trojan horse was supposed to be neat. Maybe on a whim, maybe because it was easier, I decided to catch the overnight bus to Istanbul. I just had to explore the town of Selcuk for six hours before leaving. After exploring and then hopping on the bus, I, unfortunately, found out the seller lied. It was not an express. They were stops. They gave us a single snack, not a dinner service. I also didn't get into Istanbul proper on a bus. I had to bike through the worst traffic ever. Luckily, that Japanese girl happened to speak great English and was on the same bus across the aisle from me. Meeting someone fun balanced out the bad. On to Istanbul!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pamukkale, Turkey

The Taurus mountains in Turkey.

I left Olympos with the intent to bike to Pamukkale. However, my legs were not quite there yet. The heat wasn't helping either and when I realized my map was off on the distances that was the final straw. After biking a third of the way there, I stopped in Keper to catch a bus. The bus ride there was beautiful. We had to cross the mountains to the central Anatolian plateau. Once we were there, I guess the scenery did not change up much, but I would have loved to have had the time and energy to bike it. However, since the buses are like flying on planes it almost made up for it. Next time.

Buses don't suck in Turkey. They are like planes with TVs, stewards, and everything!!

Most of the roadside stops have a small mosque.

Pamukkale was amazing. If the white travertines don't captivate you, then the ancient ruins of Hierapolis will. It was fantastic to have such an amazing natural wonder so close to a ancient cultural wonder. The white calcium carbonate pools are a classic image of Turkey. What those images and stories never tell you is that the whole location is built on a plateau full of Roman ruins that used to be an ancient spa. Very very cool. When you pay to get in, you also get into the other site, and can soak in the pools. That is a trifecta for me.

The walk way up the was like ants marching up a hill.

The calcium carbonate (limestone) run off of Pamukkale have coated the entire mountain.

Soaking in a pool.

I arrived at Pamukkale in the late afternoon. I found my way to the entrance, paid my fee, and then had to take off my shoes. They don't let you walk through the hot springs runoff with your shoes on. I assume it is so you don't pollute the pure white color of the next generation of travertines. This isn't a bad thing though. Along the way, there are some places to soak.

The wall of a travertine pool.

Empty pools at Pamukkale.

The most famous images we see of Pamukkale are of the travertine pools filled with water. Things are not like that anymore. I have heard a couple reasons why. First, the hotels drilled into the hot springs and messed up the water flow. This caused the natural springs to stop flowing to the original site. The water running now would be supplied by man. The other story is that the pools just lose their access to water over time and dry up. Those amazing pictures we see were only possible because they artificially filled those pools up for the photo shoot.

These were the best pools I found.

How do the pools form? The pools form similar to how stalagtites and stalagmites in caves form. Water flows along carrying calcium carbonate with it, but sometimes leaving some behind. This calcium carbonate dries up and makes a solid structure. In this case, it makes the wall of the pool higher because the water flows over the walls when there is sufficient flow. I guess the reason the deposits don't also fill in the pool is because the bottom of the pool is wet so it stays in solution form. At the top of the pool, the calcium carbonate can contact the air which will dry it out and make it stay in place.

I love these ornamental grasses.

Domitian Gate.


Thinking back to the ruins, I can't think of anything super special about them. I just loved them though. I don't know why. I think it had to do with how large the site was. It was not just a couple hundred feet. The ruins of Hierapolis stretched over a kilometer main street with side streets. This site had the usual entrance gates, but it also had latrines. I think it was memorable because seeing it spread out made it look more like a real town than the ruins of a couple buildings normally do.

A paraglider over the ancient ruins.

The outside of the Roman theater.

A Roman theater.

Streaks of sunset light.

In the center of the ruins is a restored building where you can soak in hot springs. Supposedly, Cleopatra once soaked there. I skipped it because it looked crazy crowded and was expensive. My friends on the Blue Cruise said it was their least favorite part of the site. I opted to trust their judgment and save money, especially since they only took cash, and I still didn't have an ATM card.

This photo makes me think of Antarctica.

The textures of the drying calcium carbonate.

What else? I don't think there is anything else. I spent a long time there. I started in the afternoon and left after the sunset. Between soaking, the ruins, and the great view of the valley I probably could have stayed a lot longer too. Maybe its kitsch because it is one of those classic images of Turkey, but it got famous for a reason. It is amazing to see how the calcium carbonate run off has turned the entire side of a plateau white after thousands of years.

A soak pool at sunset.

I think this is my favorite picture.

My hotel was interesting. I asked about Internet. They assured me it was 24 hours. I could not use it half the time because their 5 year old son was using it to watch cartoons. The rest of the time I wanted it, at 5am, it was locked. This was a reoccuring theme in Turkey where the Internet wasn't really 24 hours.

Another reoccuring theme was the breakfast. They were always the exact same breads, spreads, and even the company of the spreads. In total it included tea, bread, fake nutella, sour cherry spread, butter, honey, a mini cucumber, a tomato, olives, and a hard boiled egg. I am not kidding when I say this is the Turkish breakfast at EVERY hotel. I think I remember one variant. Anyway, it is free food. I am not going to complain about that.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Olympos, Turkey

Olympos Beach.

The Blue Cruise dropped us off in Olympos, Turkey. I can't remember how I first got turned on to Olympos. I think Davida, the Italian bike tourer, raved about it. He stayed there a week because he loved it so much. He loved the quiet free camping and wandering through the woods and having one giant ruin after another spring up from behind the trees. Some of that is still true, some of it isn't.

Olympos Beach.

A ransacked sarcophagus.

I thought I would be able to camp, but they don't allow it anymore. I didn't want to part with any of money I had left without knowing when I could get more. It turned out that Michael, from the Blue Cruise, had made a reservation that he could not use and would have to pay for no matter what. I had heard a ton about the famous Olympos tree houses and thought it might be fun to stay in one. Unfortunately, a tree house in Turkey means a house made out of wood on the ground, not in the air (and not a log cabin). This was a bummer, but the atmosphere still seemed right. My curiosity and his generosity made my decision to camp, move on, or stay put easy.

I don't know if these are brilliant or questionable trail building techniques.

More hidden ruins.

After I got settled, it was time to explore. All of the tourist stuff is on one main road in a valley. At the end of that road, the ruins start. You walk a straight path towards the beach and if you go into the woods on either side, you'll run into ruins. Some of the ruins are on well marked trails and labeled. Others are a mystery for you to find on your own. It made me think of the Mayan temples in Mexico. People tell me they are no where to be seen and then suddenly you enter this clearing and are awe struck. These are not that big (I assume), but it was still pretty cool.

Some not so hidden ruins nestled in the valley.

The Roman Gate at Olympos. Yes, even this was hidden!

I didn't spend that much time at the beach. It was a good beach, but the beach is sunny and hot. The hotel hammocks were shady and cool. There is no argument for me there. It always amazes me how good it is to just sit and read. I feel like I should be seeing the sights while I am out here traveling and read when at home or on buses. On the other hand, if I took part in these simple pleasures a little more maybe I wouldn't be so worn out to start with.

Living the good life and doing as little as possible.

Because I can't really have a complete rest day, I took a tour to Chimera. According to the ancient Greeks, a chimera is lion's body, with a snake for a tail, and the head of a goat. It was able to breath fire. I am not sure if the legend came first or the place. I can tell you that the place is still breathing fire, but the legend was killed off.

The eternal flames of Chimera.

Judy, the explorer.

The real Chimera is basically the eternal flame. Natural gas of some sort has been escaping from the rock for thousands of years. I don't know how the flames were originally lit or if they need to be relit. The sailors used to be able to see them from sea. They are too small for that now. Now, it is like sitting around a campfire. I wish I had marshmallows to toast. To get to the site, it was a difficult 3km steep uphill with some slippery steps. The best part of this visit was finding Herb and Judy up there in the dark. Those two amaze me.

The eternal flames of Chimera.

A very white me on a castle wall ruin overlooking Olympos Beach.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blue Cruise, Mediterranean Coast, Turkey

The Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

Big mountains I was happy not to be biking over.

The Blue Cruise is a four day trip between Fethiye and Olympos, Turkey. You take a gullet, a large boat with sails, though they never use them. They use the engines to mosey between various stops during the day. Some are for swimming. Some are to explore ruins. They almost never move the boat during meals or when we are sleeping. These are often billed as booze cruises which had me a little worried because that environment isn't conductive to my rest and relaxation. However, I did not need to worry. It was a very mellow crowd from almost all English speaking countries. There was one lone Turk, who ended up hanging out with the crew because he didn't speak any English.

Our first sunset.

Our first sunrise.

We had about 200km of beautiful coastline like this.

Most of the trip is a blur. I remember the good conversations more than I do the stops. A lot of the stops have blended together. The water was blue. There were gorgeous mountains behind it. There was a harbor, maybe a village, maybe some ruins. In the beginning, some people stressed about which stop was which or if we needed shoes or, or, or. I didn't care. I was elated to have someone else making all of my decisions for me for four days. I just had to sit there.

I think this was a mosque in Kas. It threw me that it had stores on the bottom floor. I didn't know that was allowed.

Find the looted ancient Lycian tomb in the rock face.

Butterfly Valley.

At the first port, Butterfly Valley, we anchored but had to swim to shore. We had a dinghy, but did not use it for whatever reason. I used an 'air mattress' floaty (no idea what the proper name is) to take my shoes and camera over. Butterfly valley is only supposed to be accessed from the water, but people make the difficult climb down from town to visit. A lot of people actually live there. It reminded me a little bit of the Kulaulau Valley. The butterflies only live high up. Luckily, we saw two.

The village under Simena Castle.

The view from Simean castle.

Herb and Judy were two of my fellow passengers. They are brilliant. I've resolved to invite them to my wedding if I ever have one. Judy will single handedly start the dance floor. They are a retired couple from New York now living in New Mexico. They raised two(?) boys. They are still active and 60 or 70 years old. I don't just mean mobile. They travel independently. They do hikes that young people struggle with. They are balls of energy. I can only hope to be that happy and energetic. I had a ton of great chats with them about wearing myself out on my trip, life journeys, happiness, parenting, and who knows what else.

Sarcophagi outside Simena Castle.

Sam and Kat on their honeymoon at . . . Simena castle

I am not sure what my favorite spot on the trip was. I seem to have taken a lot of pictures of Simena castle though. I think that had mostly to do with its location though. It is a Byzantine Castle with Lycian ruins over looking the great waters of the Mediterranean. You can't really go wrong with that. I also was able to fruitlessly search the fig trees for a free snack. The spoils of Croatia will continue to haunt me because none of the fig trees I have found since have fruit!!

I'm a little teacup short and stout. Here is my handle, here is my . . . other handle.

Simena village street.

Most of my fellow passengers on the Alaturka.

There were only four single people on the boat. They put us all in one room. The rest were double bunks. I slept on deck every night which let two of the singles who hooked up have a little more freedom, but there were still a few times I was locked out of the room. Ahh, to be in college living again.

The underwater city.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night.

Best swim of the trip was right after this sunrise.

We started the trip without a captain. He was off taking a test that he subsequently failed. When he finally got on board, he came on grumpy. Maybe it was because he failed his test. I don't know, but he tried to establish his authority in a way that put a huge damper on everything. The crew had been doing a great job before he got there and kept things fun. Afterward, they were tense and did not open up as much. It was amazing how drastic the transition was. At some point, the captain started yelling at a passenger. I think we collectively decided to ignore him and the next day, things were better. He got a good night's sleep and probably eased up. He wasn't good, but he was bearable. The chef, who we called Chef, carried the day. He was kept us smiling the entire trip. He even joined our impromptu boat dance party.

Dance party.

Pirate cave has no history of pirates using it.

There were a ton of amazing sun rises and sun sets. We saw the harvest moon. I relearned how to play backgammon. I got to chat with a Kiwi. We found a lot of small world connections. One couple had a vacation spot in Steamboat and had family that co-owns Knobels! Knobels is the local amusement park where I grow up. No one knows it unless you are from the area. They know it and they love it. We had a lot of hype to visit an underwater city. It's hype. Don't bother. You can't see anything and you can't snorkel there. We danced one night, but I was still in bed by midnight. Man, I love sleep even if I never get a lot of it. Being sleep deprived is making me appreciate good sleep more and more.

Me. Swimming.

I loved this trip. It was too short though. As I've written about it, there really wasn't much to it for me. Eat, swim, chat, read, eat, swim, eat, sleep, repeat. Though, I never actually slept in. I didn't get a nap either through I tried every day. It did not feel like four days of nothing. They went too quick which is why I suspect I could have used four more weeks of that. On the other hand, I think I would have begun to go stir crazy too. Four days was good. Go. Do it and enjoy it. Rather, go, do nothing, love it.

My bike. Sailing.